we know too much, and still...

seems like i start too many sentences out with that same first phrasing... i.e. we know too much for schools to look as they do in so many neighborhoods - bars on the windows, metal detectors in every entrance, slate grey paint on the bare walls of long hallways, tattered and outdated resources materials, computers that would begin the personal computing timeline in a technology museum...

i'm watching "System Failure," one of the 16 films currently featured at the media that matters film festival (#10). i had to pause it to get this out... and to encourage others to watch it, too. b/c we know too much for there to exist the kind of facilities known as youth prisons, detention facilities, "work camps"...

ok, back to the second half...



over the past 2 days i attended the digital stories conference held at kean university, which, by the way, has one of the most aesthetically pleasing campuses i've been to in a while - outside of the city, of course ;) there, i met several people who are already engaged in or deeply interested in digital storytelling, including joe lambert, co-founder of the center for digital storytelling. joe told, showed, and invited us into stories, and many willingly listened, shared, and participated. what is it about stories, i wondered, that draws us in, captivates our imaginations, and invites us to dream beyond the bluest sky? i went home the first night, having shared pieces of my work with several participants and receiving really encouraging feedback and thoughtful questions, thinking how lovely it would be for education to be more connected with storytelling.

also in attendance was
kimiko ryokai, queen of my very favorite toy, the I/O Brush. i love the recently added 5 second history - that is, the brush records and keeps track of up to 5 seconds before an image is captured, allowing you to click on the interactive canvas and see where in the world a particular color/image from. imagine an I/O painting, full of texture, emotion, Story. and then imagine clicking on each of the "paints" and seeing the stories behind the story.

day 2:
lots more stories shown, yet i wondered one thing:
what counts as a story?
(i ask the "what counts" question a lot - e.g. what counts as literacy? - cuz i'm interested in how "we" think "counts" should be determined. who's involved in this decision making, and of course do we recognize that it really is somewhat relative? ) have we come far enough when even digital storytellers are asking kids to begin with writing for their stories? or am i too far removed from reality when i think that story can be found in image, in a sound, in a single moment of unadulterated motion...



what do we know about youth? and how do we know it? let's not worry about "the youth" for a moment... let's consider our own youth, our days of adolescence under the hot summer sun, endless energy (except for the afternoons when sun poisoning knocked us out cold), and a staunch defiance of anything and everything we heard. we believed nothing unless we knew it for ourselves or could cite a credible source, even if that source was stacy's father's assistant's veterinarian. isn't that what we want from young people - a keen and sharp mind (which we - researchers, academics, educators - like to call "critical"); a penchant for evidence-based assertions (see above note about the veterinarian); a deep reserve of energy to draw from in pursuing a cause. and yet, too often in the sites for formal education that currently exist, youth (by which i mean 12-22 year olds, give or take a few years and depending on who you're talking to) are asked to routinely conform, trust, and be passive recipients of "education" - and to be critical within the dotted lines only.

enter: youth media. organizations such as MNN YouthChannel, Listen Up! Youth Media Network, Educational Video Center, and several others are creating spaces with and for youth that are focused on what young people have to say. no, these are not sites of chaos and havoc (although a little of both goes a long way), but are examples of how adults and youth can contribute something to broader common goal: hearing what youth have to say about topics of interest to them; creating experiences for youth to become adept at using technology for authentic purposes; extending conceptions of education beyond the school walls; and offering adults the opportunity to work with a new generation of creative producers, artists, poets, cinematographers, and storytellers that offer hope of change and justice.

right now there is an online film festival going on, sponsored by Media that Matters. of the 16 featured films, 4 were produced and directed by youth. each brings a new perspective to four diverse topics, but perhaps more importantly, uses visual and digital technologies to tell stories in a way that might not have been possible even 10 years ago. at the recent NCM Expo on Ethnic Media, there was a strand of presentations and discussions dedciated to youth media. at the end of a long string of presentations at the very end of the day, the person who was emceeing made the following point (which i will now paraphrase): given the increased availability of technologies, we (adults, educators, researchers, youth development staff, etc.) have the responsibility to make sure that different stories are heard. and, i would argue, that different stories are heard/told differently.